Just arrived home from summer vacation I have been thinking a bit about how we consultants act at work. On our vacation we used local guides at some places. These guides were our consultants at places they know very well and we didn’t know at all. But I also noticed they had some habits which may be considered as common weak sides of practicing consultancy.

Different language

Francisco Caballero has lived all his long life in the beautiful town Ronda in Southern Spain. He shared his great knowledge about the town with us in his distinguished blend of English and Spanish spiced up with some Russian, German and probably also Dutch words. I think we understood the most though we did have some variances when we compared our perceptions afterwards.

Personal opinions

Besides telling about the town and the history behind Señor Caballero also shared his views about politics. He told about problems with young people today and increasing crime. He remembered things were much better when Generalissimo Franco was in charge. He admitted though that today there is no “bandidos” in the mountains as in the old days, but as he put it: “Today all bandidos in Madrid”. I guess he was referring to recent governments.

Assessing risk

Robert is fifth generation of British descent living in Gibraltar, the small English enclave around the marvelous rock on the Southern tip of Spain facing Africa cross the narrow strait. I remember the opening scene of the James Bond film The Living Daylights is a hazardous car ride down the rock. Robert took us in his taxi on the very same narrow roads, practicing pretty much the same style of driving while explaining that as we had to go off and on the car all the time at the different sights, there was really no point in using the safety belts.

Personal commercial agenda

Salam seemed to know everyone and everything in Tangier, the Moroccan city on the Northern tip of Africa on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Salam offered us a guided tour where we would go everywhere we wanted and look at everything we fancied using any time as we pleased. Only when going around he strongly urged us to go to exactly that spice shop he knew and strongly recommended not sitting at that café we spotted but preceding to a much better one. As infidels we couldn’t of course go into a mosque, unless (of course) we gave some extra Euro.

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4 thoughts on “Consultants

  1. Jon Crowell 17th August 2010 / 20:09

    The technical skills we possess as consultants are an important part of what we deliver, but the soft skills are equally important. I’ve seen consultants get too comfortable around clients and cross boundaries that simply should not be crossed, from swearing in front of extremely religious people, to endorsing political or religious views, or to having too much to drink. Soft-skills should be part of a formal training program. After all, common sense isn’t so common.

    On another note entirely, the pictures you included are fantastic. The swimming pool at the corner of the cliff in Ronda looks spectacular.

  2. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 17th August 2010 / 20:48

    Thanks a lot for commenting Jon. I agree about the importance of soft-skills (and soft drinks :-). It is surely a balance around showing your human side while not crossing borders you shouldn’t.

  3. Jaime @ Fitzgerald Analytics 18th August 2010 / 04:29

    Welcome back from what was clearly an enjoyable and though-provoking trip! And thanks for the post on the pitfalls of our chosen profession.

    My sense is that many of these “consultant pitfalls” emerge when we forget to prioritize listening to our clients, understanding them, and adapting to their laguage, their perpective, and ultimately, their needs. If Ww forget to “seek to understand, before being understood,” it becomes hard to tailor our service to the needs and preferences of our clients.

    How were the cafes?

  4. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 18th August 2010 / 06:48

    Jaime, thanks for adding in. I completely agree with you about that you must always start with listening, understanding and adapting – including asking questions.

    About the cafes? – well, the world is becoming small. When I was young things were very different around the world. Today cafes, restaurants, shops, hotels and so on are very similar at most places, including having Starbucks here, there and everywhere.

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